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Windows 10 Under Fire for Default Privacy Settings

Microsoft has come under intense criticism this week over privacy concerns in Windows 10 which suggest the firm could access and disclose users’ personal data if deemed necessary.

The offending clause was spotted by eagle-eyed journalists who waded through the new 12,000 word terms of use.

It reads as follows:

"We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services."

Redmond did nothing to allay those privacy concerns when it responded to IDG’s efforts to clarify the clause with the following statement:

“Microsoft may share information when required by law or to respond to legal process or lawful requests, including from law enforcement or other government agencies.”

The good news is that users can opt out of the feature, although it is on by default and requires users to go into Settings, Privacy and then click through several screens to sort out.

Bitdefender chief security strategist, Catalin Cosoi, pointed out yet more potential privacy concerns in the new OS.

The first relates to the new personal assistant Cortana, which taps email, contact and other data to provide a personalized service. Most users would probably be happy for it to do so in return for an effective service, but the option is there to turn it off if not.

Windows 10 also shares some private data with third party applications – so users were advised to go to Start -> Settings -> Privacy -> Account Info if they feel this is excessive.

The operating system will also synchronize profile data with the cloud. Using a Local Account will circumvent this.

“To start with a Local Account, when you are prompted to create a Microsoft account, unplug the internet cable or turn off your Wi-Fi and click the Next button,” said Cosoi.

He also advised privacy-conscious users  choose a custom install on set-up.

“Although the Express Settings may look tempting, it configures the operating system to share speech, typing, contacts and calendar, as well as location data and advertising ID to Microsoft and partners,” explained Cosoi.

“Choosing the Custom settings option brings a number of toggles that you can turn off as desired.”

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